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Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE WHISTLING by Rebecca Netley (@PenguinUKBooks) (@Rebecca_Netley ) A new Gothic author has arrived. Hooray! #TheWhistling

Hi all:

I think this novel by a new author might become a favourite for many readers.

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

The Whistling by Rebecca Netley

If you can hear it, it’s already too late . . . SEND SHIVERS DOWN YOUR SPINE WITH THIS CHILLING AND GRIPPING STORY SET IN A FAR-FLUNG SCOTTISH ISLAND

**THE PERFECT HALLOWEEN READ AS THE NIGHTS DRAW IN**

‘Chills you to your bones . . . More unsettling and beautiful than you can imagine’ 5***** READER REVIEW
________

On the remote Scottish island of Skelthsea, Elspeth Swansome takes on a position as a nanny.

Her charge, Mary, hasn’t uttered a word since the sudden death of her twin, William – just days after their former nanny disappeared. But no one will speak of what happened to William.

Just as no one can explain the lullabies sung in empty corridors.
Nor the strange dolls that appear in abandoned rooms.
Nor the faint whistling that comes in the night . . .

As winter draws in, Elspeth finds herself increasingly trapped.

But is this house haunted by the ghosts of the past?

OR THE SECRETS OF THE LIVING . . . ?
________

Chilling, twisty and emotionally gripping, The Whistling is an atmospheric page-turner with shades of the classics, yet a unique character of its own, perfect for fans of Susan Hill and Laura Purcell

‘I was sucked in from page one and read it in one fell swoop’ 5***** READER REVIEW

‘A wicked twist . . . brilliant, scary, clever. Horror writing at its best’ 5***** READER REVIEW

‘A great story with moments of heart-grabbing terror, beautifully written’ 5***** READER REVIEW

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

https://www.amazon.es/dp/B08XB7M4N7/

Author Rebecca Netley

About the author:

Rebecca Netley grew up as part of an eccentric family in a house full of books and music, and these things have fed her passions. Family and writing remain at the heart of Rebecca’s life. She lives in Reading with her husband, sons and an over-enthusiastic dog, who gives her writing tips. The Whistling is Rebecca Netley’s debut novel and won the Exeter Novel Prize.

 My review:

I thank NetGalley and Penguin Michael Joseph UK for providing me an ARC copy of this novel, which I freely chose to review. This is the debut novel of the author, and it is likely that we’ll be hearing plenty from her in the future.

This is a Gothic novel, and although it is brand new, lovers of the genre will recognise many/most of the expected tropes and details they’ve come to love over the years: a remote and dark place (the imaginary Scottish Island of Skelthsea, which the author manages to make both, menacing and beautiful); a threatening mansion that becomes a character in its own right; a young lone woman, who has experienced much trauma and loss, arrives to the house and has to confront a less-than-warm welcome and some open animosity; secrets and mysteries everybody insists in keeping from the main protagonist; some eerie and difficult to explain events; some seemingly friendly people who offer to help, and others who seem intent on harming or at least obstructing the protagonist; “strange” children; plenty of alternative versions of what might have happened, some more difficult to believe than others; and a paranormal element to the story (or more than one), in this case related to the island’s ancestral knowledge/traditions (or superstitions?). Many of the reviewers mention some of the novels The Whistling reminded them of, and, for those who like to read both, the classics and more modern takes on the genre, this one fits into quite a well-known subgenre, that of the young woman coming to look after and/or educate the (usually recently orphaned) children of a fairly well-to-do family, who have been left in charge of a relative not up to (or interested in) the task. You’ll probably be able to come up with a few titles that would fit the description —films as well as books— although in my case, to begin with, I kept thinking of Henry James’s A Turn of the Screw, because the tone of menace and the emphasis on the previous nanny reminded me of that story, but… I will try not to reveal any spoilers, because despite the general sense of familiarity one experiences when reading the story, there are quite a few twists and turns, and plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing.

This a very atmospheric novel, and apart from the actual paranormal element, there are quite a few other topics (some more habitual than others), that play a part in the story. There is grief; trauma; difficult family relationships; sibling rivalry; small communities and how they deal with outsiders; the role of women in society; poor mental health and how it was dealt with in the past; different kinds of love; duty, and feelings of guilt; ancient beliefs, tradition, and rationality; how vulnerable we are to suggestion, especially when we are alone and not on familiar ground… Although the novel stays close to the classic style, and I wouldn’t say it presents a totally novel take on the subject, the focus on the character’s past history and the amount of psychological detail it conveys give it a more modern feel.

It is difficult to talk about the characters without giving away too much of the story, but I will say that the protagonist, Elspeth —who is also the first-person narrator of the story— is a sympathetic character, and one easy to root for. She has lived through some pretty traumatic experiences, and we meet her at a moment when she has lost everybody and everything, and places all her hopes and dreams on this job, on her new charge, Mary, and on a new life away from her sad memories and experiences. As you can imagine, things don’t go to plan, but despite her fear and the threats and warnings she keeps getting, she sticks by the girl and gets to really care for her. What is quite extraordinary as well, in this novel, is how many of the characters share characteristics and are mirror images of each other or, perhaps, they embody different examples of the effects such traumas could have in the development of a person, depending on their previous personalities and circumstances. We have quite a few characters who have lost their parents, at a fairly early age; who have suffered trauma (physical, mental, or even both); who have been abused or have seen loved ones being abused or made a mockery of by members of the community they live in; who have had difficult relationships with siblings and have then lost them (and experience guilt); who have had to deal with a responsibility imposed on them by birth or society; who have nobody they can trust and have to keep quiet (figuratively or otherwise)… This background is shared by characters who (at least on the surface) are “good”, but also by some Elspeth suspects from the very beginning of being evil, which highlights the idea that both, nature and nurture, are equally important when it comes to the upbringing of a person (and this is further brought home by the many siblings who also populate the novel, and who tend to be completely different from each other).

The story is told by Elspeth, from her point of view, and that works very well to place readers in her shoes and make us experience things first-hand. It is also a great way to tell the story and to maintain the mystery, as we, like her, know nothing of the setting, and we discover it with her, slowly and gradually. There is some telling, as Elspeth gets increasingly curious and suspicious about what is going on, and she starts asking questions, but many of the other characters are very reluctant to divulge any but the most basic of information, and we only get to learn some bits of gossip and rumours for much of the novel.

I have mentioned how well the author captures the atmosphere, the way she uses the island, the house, the weather, to play with the protagonist’s subjectivity, and to increase the tension and the suspense of the story. There are vivid descriptions, but they never feel forced or excessive, and there are plenty of events and happenings to keep the action and the story moving. The story has three parts, and some reviewers complained that the novel, especially the first part, is quite slow. Most of them recognised, though, that this is in keeping with the genre of the novel. Personally, I felt it worked well, and the story didn’t drag for me. (People who are not used to the genre or to these kinds of books might feel it is too slow, but I don’t think it would work as well if it was any faster). The story picks up the pace as the warnings, threats, and worrying events pile up, and the clues to the mystery and the red herrings are nicely scattered around the book and will keep readers turning the pages, even if it is at a more leisurely pace than in modern mystery novels. Don’t hesitate to check a sample of the book if you like the sound of it, as you will get a fair idea of what the style of the whole novel is like pretty quickly.

To give you a taster, I couldn’t resist sharing a few passages. Remember, though, that I read an ARC copy, so there might be modifications and small changes in the final version.

I felt then not just the strangeness of the unfamiliar house but something else, a quality to the quietness that seemed unnatural, and experienced the tiniest nibble of some doubt. 

Perhaps, I thought, mourning could never be fully emptied. 

‘Some souls are made to be dark.’ She studied me with something like pity. ‘The world gives birth to both the viper and the lamb, and there are churches for each.’ 

The silence was as deep and still as distant galaxies. Every piece of my life came polished to diamond sharpness, fragments hurled at me with the speed of comets: the coiling smoke of Swan House, my mother’s face with death upon it, the warmth of Clara’s hand —no regret: my heart was as flat as paper.

What to say about the ending? It is all solved and all questions answered, and I liked it a lot. Most of the explanations are pretty rational and would fit into a standard mystery novel, but the supernatural also plays a part, as it should in this genre. Did I guess what was really going on? To tell you the truth, I was carried away by the atmosphere and the all-engrossing aura of the story, and I didn’t spend as much time as I would in a standard mystery novel thinking about the whos and the whys. I did guess right, though, most of the answers, although not all the details, and many of the detours and red herrings made me change my mind a few times. But, although not a standard mystery, for me that part of the story works well, and the ending is a happy one, given the circumstances.

Would I recommend this novel? Definitely for anybody who loves Gothic mysteries and fiction, particularly those involving a mysterious house, magnetic locations, young women, and children. If you favour a quick and fast story, and a modern style of writing, clipped and to the point, this might not be for you, as it is written in the style of the classics. I am not sure I would class it as a horror story (I didn’t feel scared, but I am not easily frightened), and although there are eerie moments, they are mostly psychological in nature (that does not mean there is no real danger involved, and violence makes an appearance, although mostly out of the pages and is not explicit or extreme), anxiety-inducing and suspense and dread are the main emotions. A child dies, and there are plenty of disturbing and disturbed characters and traumatic events, so people looking for a light read, or a cheery story might need to be cautious, although the story ends on an optimistic note. A great example of a new Gothic novel, with a likeable and determined female protagonist, with no romance involved (in the main story), and with mysteries and supernatural happenings taking place in a truly remarkable setting. I will follow the author’s career with interest.

Thanks to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep smiling, keep reading, and to stay safe. ♥

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog RUNNING HAUNTED: A GREEK ROMANTIC COMEDY WITH A GHOST SET IN NAFPLIO GREECE by Effrosyni Moschoudi (@FrostieMoss) Ghosts, a cute dog, wonderful locations and plenty of love #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you an amusing and touching read that is perfect for those of us who have ended up with no holidays.

Running Haunted: A Greek romantic comedy with a ghost set in Nafplio Greece by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Running Haunted: A Greek romantic comedy with a ghost set in Nafplio Greece by Effrosyni Moschoudi

Kelly ran a marathon… and wound up running a house. With a ghost in it.

Kelly Mellios is a stunning, athletic woman, who has learned–the hard way–to value herself. Having just finished her first marathon in the alluring Greek town of Nafplio, she bumps into Alex, a gorgeous widower with three underage children, who is desperately looking for a housekeeper.

The timing seems perfect, seeing that Kelly aches to start a new life, and Nafplio seems like the ideal place to settle down. She accepts the position on the spot, but little does she know that Alex’s house has an extra inhabitant that not even the family knows about…

The house is haunted by Alex’s late wife, who has unfinished business to tend to. By using the family pet, a quirky pug named Charlie, the ghost is able to communicate with Kelly and asks her for help. She claims she wants to ensure her loved ones are happy before she departs, but offers very little information about her plans.

Kelly freaks out at first, but gradually finds herself itching to help. It is evident there’s room for improvement in this family… Plus, her growing attraction towards Alex is overpowering…

Will Kelly do the ghost’s bidding? How will it affect her? And just how strange is this pug?

“I have read all of Effrosyni’s books, the characters become your friends. Running Haunted is the perfect summer read set in Greece.”
~Just Kay, Amazon UK reviewer

“Another charming book from Effrosyni. Read it, and you’ll be transported to Greece & never look a dog the same way again!”
~Just Me.Mo, Amazon UK reviewer

“A fast-paced original story with attention to detail and engaging dialog. A heartfelt emotional read, with family love, romance and a lovable ghost. I highly recommend it.”
~Sheri Wilkinson, Amazon reviewer

https://www.amazon.com/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

https://www.amazon.es/Running-Haunted-romantic-comedy-Nafplio-ebook/dp/B0853CMP1V/

Author Effrosyni Moschoudi

About the author:

Effrosyni Moschoudi was born and raised in Athens, Greece. As a child, she loved to sit alone in her garden scribbling rhymes about flowers, butterflies and ants. Today, she writes stories for the romantic at heart. She lives in a quaint seaside town near Athens with her husband Andy. Her mind forever drifts to her beloved Greek island of Corfu.

Her debut novel, The Necklace of Goddess Athena, has won a silver medal in the 2017 book awards of Readers’ Favorite. The Ebb, her romance set in Moraitika, Corfu that’s inspired from her summers there in the 1980s, is an ABNA Q-Finalist.

Her novels are Amazon bestsellers, having hit #1 several times, and are available in kindle and paperback format.

What others say about Effrosyni’s books:

“Effrosyni layers her words on the page like music.”
~Jackie Weger, author of The House on Persimmon Road

“Very few writers have such a gift for realism.”
~Kelly Smith Reviews

Go here to grab FREE books by this author: http://effrosyniwrites.com/free-stuff/

Visit her website for free excerpts, book trailers, her travel guide to Corfu, yummy Greek recipes, and to join her email list for her news and special offers: http://www.effrosyniwrites.com

**Like her on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/authoreffrosyni

**Follow her on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/frostiemoss

**Find her on Goodreads:
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7362780.Effrosyni_Moschoudi

https://www.amazon.com/Effrosyni-Moschoudi/e/B00I5JKMXS

My review:

I purchased a copy of this novel, which I also review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here).

I had read and reviewed a novella by this author before and enjoyed it (you can find my review for The Amulet here). It perfectly combined a lightness of touch, humour, a paranormal element (not in a heavy-handed manner but rather whimsically), and a lovely setting in Greece, with plenty of gorgeous locations and pretty tasty-sounding food. The ideal read for a holiday or for those occasions when we need a holiday but are not in a position to take one (and also perfect for the winter months, when we need a bit of sun, even if it is just coming from a page).  I was therefore well-predisposed toward the writer’s offerings, and when I came across an interview where she explained how personal this novel had become for her, I had to buy it and add it to my list to read. I can confirm that it shares many characteristics with the novella I had read before, down to the wonderful settings, the food, the paranormal element (that becomes quite poignant here, in places), and the light and humorous touches.

The description of the book provides a good summary of the plot. There are some surprises along the way (that I won’t go into), and the book fits in well within the romance genre, down to the gorgeous protagonists (both), some difficulties and hindrances along the way (including old lovers and others), plenty of wish fulfilment, and a great ending which will make readers see things in a new light (and will leave them smiling). I have mentioned the paranormal element, and as the blurb explains, we have a ghost who becomes an important protagonist of the book, as well as quite a few unexplained things (and I’m going to avoid spoilers as usual).

All the characters are easy to like (well, almost all, but I won’t get into that). They are far from perfect, though. We have Kelly, who has transformed her life after an abusive relationship (no physical violence, but her ex-boyfriend always put her down and made her feel insecure) and has turned into a woman who won’t let anybody tell her what she can or can’t do, who will fight to become the person she wants and will help others do the same. On the other hand, she can rush into things without thinking about the consequence; she can be pushy and too direct; and the way she approaches some topics might be one-sided and simplistic (her approach to bullying and to the excess weight of one of the kids, for example), but it’s difficult not to be won over by her enthusiasm and goodwill. Alex is still grieving his wife and finds it difficult to know how best to deal with his children, but he is (as usual in romances) pretty perfect otherwise. The children all have their problems but are good kids and loveable, and what can I say about Charlie, the dog. I adored it! None of the characters are very complex, and this is even more so if we talk about their friends and other secondary characters we see little of. On the other hand, the connection between the members of the family, once the problems have been solved, feels real, and readers are likely to enjoy becoming an ersatz member of the household as much as Kelly does. I really liked Lauren, though, and she is perhaps the one aspect of the novel that feels a little less traditional, as we tend to see women mostly in domestic roles, and there are no particular challenges to the status quo. Lauren’s love for her family is inspiring, and it’s easy to understand why they have all struggled so much to cope without her. She and Kelly seem to have much in common, and I loved her resourcefulness and her wicked sense of humour.

The novel touches upon the different ways people deal with grief, and I found particularly interesting the examples of young children trying to come to terms with the death of their mother. There are very touching moments in the book, and although there is a great deal of humour, the subject is sensitively approached, and I think many people who have suffered losses will feel inspired and comforted by this story.

The writing is fluid and the story is told in the third-person, mostly from the point of view of Kelly, the main protagonist, although there are a few snippets from other characters’ viewpoints, which help readers be a step ahead sometimes but not always (the author keeps a few tricks up her sleeve). There are lovely descriptions of locations and mentions of Greek food, but those do not interfere with the action of the rhythm of the story but rather enhance the enjoyment and help readers immerse themselves in the narrative.

I have mentioned the ending before, and it is a joy. Not only will most readers be left with a smile, but I suspect a few will laugh out loud as well. Well done!

If you are looking for a book that challenges genre and gender conventions, whose characters are diverse, and/or want to avoid triggers related to fat-shaming and bullying, this is not your book. On the other hand, this is a great read for those looking for a sweet romance (no sex or erotica here), in a gorgeous setting, who love the inclusion of humour and paranormal elements. I particularly recommend it to readers who love dogs, Greece, and who can’t go on a real holiday. I enjoyed my time with Kelly and Alex’s family, and I’m sure you’ll do too.

Thanks to the author for her book, to Rosie and the members of the team for their support, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, keep smiling, and keep safe!

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews Tuesday Book Blog

#TuesdayBookBlog DRACA by Geoffrey Gudgion (@GeoffreyGudgion) (@unbounders) Beautiful, eerie, and enthralling #RBRT

Hi all:

I bring you a book difficult to classify (I like those) and one I’m sure will intrigue a lot of you.

Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

Draca by Geoffrey Gudgion

‘A terrific and compelling story which highlights mental and physical challenges that many who have served will recognise.’ General Sir Nick Parker, Commander British Forces Afghanistan 2010

Draca was a vintage sailing cutter, Old Eddie’s pride and joy. But now she’s beached, her varnish peeling. She’s dying, just like Eddie.

Eddie leaves Draca to his grandson Jack, a legacy that’s the final wedge between Jack and his father. Yet for Jack, the old boat is a lifeline. Medically discharged from the Marines, with his marriage on the rocks, the damaged veteran finds new purpose; Draca will sail again. Wonderful therapy for a wounded hero, people say.

Young Georgia ‘George’ Fenton, who runs the boatyard, has doubts. She saw changes in Old Eddie that were more sinister even than cancer. And by the time Draca tastes the sea again, the man she dares to love is going the same way. To George, Jack’s ‘purpose’ has become ‘possession’; the boat owns the man and her flawed hero is on a mission to self-destruct. As his controlling and disinherited father pushes him closer to the edge, she gives all she has to hold him back.

And between them all, there’s an old boat with dark secrets, and perhaps a mind of its own.

https://www.amazon.com/Draca-Geoffrey-Gudgion-ebook/dp/B087CCVKLV/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Draca-Geoffrey-Gudgion-ebook/dp/B087CCVKLV/

https://www.amazon.es/Draca-Geoffrey-Gudgion-ebook/dp/B087CCVKLV/

Author Geoffrey Gudgion

About the author:

Geoffrey Gudgion served for over 10 years in the armed forces, and made his first attempts at writing fiction during quiet moments on deployment. He later stepped off the corporate ladder, in the midst of a career in marketing and general management, specifically to release time to write. Freelance consultancy paid the bills. His first novel, Saxon’s Bane, reached #1 in Kindle’s ‘Ghost’ category, and he now writes full time.

Gudgion’s second novel, Draca, will be released by Unbound on 14 May 2020. Draca is also a subtle ghost story; a veteran with PTSD is haunted by his past, or perhaps simply haunted.

When not crafting words Gudgion is an enthusiastic amateur equestrian and a very bad pianist.

https://www.amazon.com/Geoffrey-Gudgion/e/B00EQF47UO?

My review:

I write this review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team (authors, if you are looking for reviews, check here), and I freely chose to review an ARC copy of this novel.

I didn’t know Geoffrey Gudgion before I read this novel, but the description and the cover called me (a bit worrying when I think about it after finishing the book), and my reward was a fantastic read that combines many elements likely to interest a large variety of readers. Draca, the vessel of the title, is a haunting presence throughout the book. Old Eddie, its owner, was fascinated by old Norse mythology and his Viking heritage, and there are fragments from the Saga of King Guthrum (c a AD 875) heading each new chapter and telling a fascinating story of the Vikings’ incursions into Britain and their battles with the Saxons. This mythological background and the story of King Guthrum and his son Jarl Harald moves apace with the adventures of Draca and Jack, Eddie’s grandson and new owner of the sailing cutter. There are adventures that will delight those who love sailing (but also those who don’t. I haven’t done any proper sailing but have a soft spot for books and movies set at sea, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Let me clarify that although there is ample evidence of knowledge and research on the topic of sailing, no expertise is required to enjoy the novel). The characters and especially the relationship between the male members of the Ahlquist fmaily, make for fascinating reading, as we have parents and sons of different generations with complex love-hate relationships, and they relive their conflicts on and off the ship.

Other themes are also explored and add to the overall interest of the novel: Jack, the main protagonist of the story, was a decorated Royal Marine who was severely wounded during the war, and now suffers from PTSD and is finding it difficult to adjust to civilian life. His flashbacks and his account of his experiences are realistic and compelling (not surprising when we take into account the author’s background), and it makes him a particularly sympathetic character. We also have romance (although the two characters seemed made for each other from the beginning, and I’m sure most readers will enjoy it, considering the background of both characters it seemed a bit too perfect for me, especially if readers are expecting a standard horror story); a woman with a gift for healing and for sensing things about people; and a paranormal element that I felt worked very well.

I think the description offers more than enough information about the plot, and I want to avoid spoilers.  I think this novel cuts across a few genres. There are very realistic elements, in particular those depicting the psychological state of the characters, PTSD and obsession; there are also mythological and fantastical elements; paranormal/horror elements; sailing adventures; family relationships (a family saga, to a point); and a romance (there is some sex, but it is pretty mild and not very explicit, and people who follow my review know I don’t like erotica, so…). If I had to choose, I enjoyed the mythological/fantastical aspects of the story, the sailing adventure, and the realistic aspects, especially the relationship between the men, the most.

I have mentioned some of the characters already. The story is narrated in the third person, each chapter usually following the point of view of one of the main characters (Harry, Old Eddie’s son and Jack’s father, not a particularly likeable character and not somebody who evolves much during the novel, but he is not all bad either; Jack; and George, the main female character, who runs the boatyard and seems to combine characteristics of the caring female who would do anything for her man, with an independent and wise woman who tries hard to keep trouble at bay), interspersed with the Saga of King Guthrum and also, especially at the beginning, with fragments of Eddie’s diary, which help us understand more about the man and about Draca. We also meet Charlotte (Charlie), Jack’s wife, who is a very intriguing character, but her story is not developed in a lot of detail (and we don’t see things from her point of view), not is that of Jack’s mother, who seems to be an old-fashioned housewife and hardly has a voice of her own. We don’t see enough of Tilly, Jack’s sister, for her to play a part in the story (other than being a hindrance at times).

The writing is excellent. There are beautiful descriptions of sailing, not only of the act of sailing but also of the emotions it creates, and as I’ve said already, the psychological experiences of the characters, particularly of Jack are rendered in such a way that we can’t help but feel as if we were there, sharing in his anguish and feelings. There are lyrical passages that made me reread them again, and this is a book that combines an absorbing story that makes you keep turning the pages with a style of writing that demands to be savoured and enjoyed. I’ve highlighted many fragments, but I thought I’d share a couple to give you some idea of what to expect:

When the tide was just on the ebb it sucked at the beach below the cottage, a soft susurration at the limit of hearing. In the pre-dawn darkness it sounded like whispering, so human that he strained to distinguish the words.

Draca was a bit like some men she’d met who were handsome on the outside and dangerous on the inside. In that way, Draca was the opposite of Jack. He was dangerous on the outside but probably dead gentle on the inside, like he was wearing a suit of armour, or a shell, like a crab.

The ending… I think the author has managed to pull quite a trick there, because all the different elements come to a satisfactory ending (no, I’m not saying happy), and I enjoyed it, for sure. And it does not leave us hanging, so people who don’t appreciate cliff-hangers don’t need to worry… much.

The author mentions his sources (people and books) in his acknowledgments, and I was particularly happy to learn about Unbound, the first crowdfunding publisher, which made the book possible. The book also includes a list of supporters and patrons, and I will try to keep track of their future projects.

In brief, a great read, that I’d recommend to people interested in male family relationships, PTSD, and who don’t mind a touch of the paranormal and romance. Fans of sailing stories and those who love Norse mythology and Old Saxon history will enjoy it even more. There are some chilling and eerie moments, but the horror, such as it is, is mostly psychological, so this should not put off people who usually avoid the genre. I won’t forget Draca in a long time, and I’m sure if you read it you won’t, either.

Thanks to the author, the publisher and to Rosie and her team, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, review, smile, and always keep safe.

 

 

 

Categories
Book review Book reviews

#Bookreview THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS by Ruth Hogan (@ruthmariehogan) A gentle read for those who love books set in Britain, short-stories and Blithe Spirit

Hi all:

I should be all caught up with my reviews by the end of this week (more or less. I have some programmed already and one that I’ll post later on because the book will be published later in the month) so soon I’ll be posting as I read. Hooray!

But first, another review:

The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

The Keeper of Lost Things: The feel-good novel of the year by Ruth Hogan

We’re all waiting to be found…

‘The first book I read in 2017 – and if another as good comes along in the next 12 months, I’ll eat my special gold reviewing spectacles’ DAILY MAIL

Meet the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

Ruth Hogan’s second novel A Beginner’s Guide to Drowning is now available for pre-order

https://www.amazon.com/Keeper-Lost-Things-feel-good-novel-ebook/dp/B01D8ZE2C0/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Keeper-Lost-Things-feel-good-novel-ebook/dp/B01D8ZE2C0/

Author Ruth Hogan
Author Ruth Hogan

About the author:

instagram.com/ruthmariehogan

twitter.com/ruthmariehogan
facebook.com/ruthmariehogan
Website: http://ruthhogan.co.uk

I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford. My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.
As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on. Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop. My favourite reads were THE MOOMINTROLLS, A HUNDRED MILLION FRANCS, THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE, and the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.
I passed enough A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to study English and Drama. It was brilliant and I loved it.
And then I got a proper job.
I worked for ten years in a senior local government position: a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage. In my early thirties, I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.
It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS, my first novel.
I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering husband. I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.
My favourite word is’ antimacassar’ and I still like reading gravestones.

https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Hogan/e/B01KO3PWVY/

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and Two Roads for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Although I am not sure this is ‘the feel-good novel of the year’ I’d have to agree it is a feel-good novel, although perhaps not for everybody.

The novel tells many stories, although it tells two in more detail, those of Anthony and Laura (later of Laura and her new family) and Eunice and Bomber. Although those stories are separated by forty years, they are parallel in many ways: an older man who puts an advertisement for an assistant, a younger woman —very young in Eunice’s case— who ends up becoming a personal friend of the man and whose life ends up enmeshed and entangled with that of her employer, both men’s work relates to literature (Anthony is a fairly successful writer of short stories and Bomber is a publisher), both males die leaving some sort of legacy to these women (and also asking them to fulfil their final wishes). As we read on, we might suspect that the relationship between these two stories runs deeper than at first appears, but it is not confirmed until very close to the end.

There are other important elements in the novel, which functions also as a collection of short stories, as Anthony, after experiencing a terrible loss, started to collect lost things, cataloguing them and using his study for safe keeping, in an attempt at recovering something he had lost himself. Throughout the novel, there are stories about those objects (written in italics so it is easy to differentiate them to the rest) interspersed with the two main stories. We are told, later in the book, that Anthony used those objects as inspiration for several collections of short stories, but the novel allows for several possible interpretations of what these stories really are. Are they imaginary stories? Are they the real stories behind the objects? If they are imaginary short-stories who has written them? Anthony? Somebody else? Each reader can choose whatever explanation s/he prefers and I’m sure there are more possibilities.

I mentioned the two main stories that frame the novel and the short stories within. Each chapter is told (in the third person) from one of the characters’ point of view (mostly Laura or Eunice) and this is is clearly indicated, as it is the year, because Eunice and Bomber’s story develops from the 1970s up to the current days. We get to know his family and follow his father’s illness (Alzheimer’s) that unfortunately later also afflicts Bomber himself. There are comments on movies of the period; there is the wonderful relationship with Bomber’s parents, the two dogs that share his life and an unrequited and impossible love story. Ah, and Bomber’s sister, Portia, her awful behaviour and her even worse attempts at getting her brother to publish one of her rip-offs of well-known and loved classics, that make for hilarious reading, especially for authors and book lovers. I must confess that, perhaps because their story develops over time and it has none of the paranormal elements added to the other, I particularly warmed to it. I found the depiction of the dementia sufferers (both father and son) touching, humorous and bittersweet, and although we don’t get to know Eunice well (other than through her devotion to Bomber and his life-work), she is a character easy to like and some of her actions make us cheer her on.

Laura’s story is that of somebody lost, perfectly in keeping with Anthony’s life mission. She made some questionable decisions when she was younger, married too young and her knight in shining armour turned up to be anything but. She is very insecure and full of self-doubt and that makes her a less likeable character as she pushes people away rather than risk being rejected, but she is also the one who has to change more and work harder to get out of her shell. Sunshine, a young neighbour, Down’s syndrome, also shares her point of view with the reader at times and becomes a member of the family, although she has her own too. She is less hindered by concern about what others’ might think, or what is right and wrong, and she has a special connection (not sure ‘power’ is the right word) with the objects and with the paranormal elements that later appear in the novel. Fred, the gardener, is the love interest, handsome and kind, but he seems to be there to provide the romance and second chance more than anything else, and he is not very well developed.

I’ve mentioned the paranormal elements. There is a ghost in the house and that takes up a fair amount of the book as Laura keeps trying to work out how to make things right. I am not sure this added much to the story but references to Blithe Spirit (that is being performed by an amateur theatrical group in the neighbourhood) put an emphasis on the effect the writer might have been aiming for (each reader can decide how well it works for them).

This is a well-written novel, with effective descriptions of objects, locations and people. There are elements of chick-lit (the descriptions of Laura’s disastrous date, her chats with her friend…), romantic touches, some elements of mystery, plenty of loss, death and second chances, a fair bit about literature… The whole feeling of the story is somewhat old-fashioned (and very British. I’ve lost count of how many ‘lovely cups of tea’ are prepared and drunk during the novel, and although that is partly in jest, yes, there is a fair amount of repetition, foreshadowing and signposting, perhaps unnecessary in this kind of story). Some of the references, including songs and films, will be lost on the younger generations. Everything is fairly gentle; even the bad characters (Portia) are only moderately nasty and they are the object of fun rather than being truly evil. There are gossip and misunderstandings but nothing really awful happens. No gore details, no huge surprises, no hot sex (I think you’ll have to buy Portia’s stories of Hotter Potter for that), and even technology only appears by the backdoor (people send text messages and a laptop and a website  appear towards the end, but this is not a book where characters follow mother trends).

Funnily enough, a publisher (rival of Anthony) sums up what the books he publishes should be like, thus:

I know what normal, decent people like, and that’s good, straightforward stories with a happy ending where the baddies get their comeuppance, the guy gets the girl and the sex isn’t too outré.

The structure of the novel and some of the short-stories are not at all like that, but the spirit behind it perhaps it and its charm might be lost on some readers who prefer more action and adventures and a more modern style of writing.

In summary, a gentle read, bittersweet, with plenty of stories for those who love short stories, of particular interest to lovers of books and movies set in Britain, stories about writers, the publishing world and women’s stories. It has sad moments and funny ones but it is unlikely to rock your world.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and to the publishers, thanks to all of you for reading and remember to like, share, comment, CLICK and REVIEW!

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